As the sun slowly dipped behind the Marshall Playground and Sprayground on a recent Saturday, visitors young and old gathered at the PNC Achievement Center for Education and Interpretation for a full moon walk along the Black Willow Trail.
Although the full moon was hidden by the cloudy winter sky on this particular evening, there was no shortage of enthusiasm among the 25 participants. Waiting for the hike to begin, lively conversations echoed through the education center with topics ranging from the presence of barred owls in The Parklands, to southern Parklands construction, and yes, the missing full moon! Visitors dissected owl pellets to find rodent bones, studied the park map, and perused the interactive exhibits while readying their flashlights and zipping up jackets.
The hike began just as the all encompassing and foreboding darkness engulfed Beckley Creek Park. Our hope that the full moon would guide our way down the trail quickly vanished, as not a single star was visible through the think blanket of clouds in the sky. Not to be deterred, we headed out into the brisk evening.
Beginning the hike we discussed how, as humans, we don’t realize how much we rely on our sense of sight until the light is taken away from us. So with the bright moon hidden from view we got a chance to use our other senses – and the night came alive. We listened to owls hooting, trees creaking, and Floyds Fork running. We felt the gravel grinding under our feet and the breeze blowing on our face. We smelled a distant campfire burning and the fallen leaves decomposing.
We discussed how owls have asymmetrical ears to hear in three dimensions, how bats use echolocation to locate prey in the darkness, that canine noses are wet to hold more scent molecules per sniff, and the meaning of words like nocturnal and crepuscular. (Nocturnal meaning animals that are active at night, crepuscular meaning animals that are active at dawn and dusk.)
We played games like bat and moth tag to illustrate echolocation, we covered one eye while staring at a candle to find out why pirates wore eye patches (with one eye covered they were able to switch the patch from one eye to the other to adjust their vision to darkness when looting the cabin of a ship), and perhaps most importantly, we got to know each other as Parklands supporters and community members.
And after an hour and a half of tromping through the darkness, laughing, learning, and using our senses we retired to the PNC Center to use our most important sense…taste! Hot chocolate was distributed for one and all as we warmed our bones from the night chill, a perfect way to end a wonderful nights’ hike.
Please join us for future hikes and outings as we attempt to bring nature back into neighborhoods. A full calendar of events can be found at http://www.theparklands.org/Events.
About the Author
As Director of Education, Curtis Carman oversees The Parklands Outdoor Classroom, promoting STEAM-based education through engaging, hands-on learning both outdoors and inside the classroom. Each year, his team of Education Specialists, Interpretive Rangers and Camp Counselors guide nearly 20,000 participants of all ages through school field trips, camps, Parklands Explorer, Junior Explorer and Wednesday Wonders. Prior to his promotion to Education Director in May of 2018, Curtis first joined The Parklands team as an Interpretive Ranger and led the department as Education Coordinator for three years. A native of Louisville and a graduate of Ballard High School, Curtis returned to his hometown after having worked as an environmental educator in Maine and Colorado at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Curtis also served as Membership Manager at the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Curtis enjoys hiking, biking, camping and kayaking.